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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract & Vanilla Sugar

"It smells like a distillery in here," my dad says with his nose scrunched up.


Guys. I made vanilla extract.


This is probably, like, one of the coolest things I've ever done.

The hardest part of making it is rounding up the ingredients.

Vanilla Beans

I ordered mine from With a name like "Beanilla," I figure they must have great vanilla beans. I ordered 25 Tahitian vanilla beans, but they also have Madagascar, Bourbon, Tonga, Mexican, Indonesian, and more varieties. Before I ordered the beans, I did a quick check on the internet to see if there were any coupons available. I found one that saved me 10%! Try the coupon code 'SAVE10' if you order some.

Mason Jars

I purchased a case (12) of wide mouth quart canning jars, and I used three jars. I'll be using the rest to make some "jar mix gifts." To be on the safe side, I sterilized the jars in boiling water. By the way, if one jar falls over after you've pulled it out of the water, don't grab it with your bare hand. Just a little piece of advice from me to you. Yowzers.


I had no idea what kind of vodka to buy, but lucky for me, my work partner is a recovering alcoholic (10 years sober - yay Jack!). I kind of put it out there that I was making vanilla extract and it required vodka. Jack totally gave me the lowdown on what was the best vodka, and he made some recommendations...which promptly flew out of my head as soon as I saw all the fancy bottles in the store. I did remember him saying Absolut would be his choice, but I went with something lower on his list and picked up a 1.75L bottle of Smirnoff since the vanilla will be the star at the end of this...not the alcohol.

On a side note, I am VERRRRY upset that the dude at the liquor store didn't card me. It was like a cold slap of reality: I look old. I no longer look young. I don't even look close to 21 anymore! But that's for another blog post. Sheesh. My life is over now.

The recipe is simple: 3 vanilla beans to 1 cup of vodka.

I filled each mason jar with 3 cups of vodka and 9 vanilla beans. I split each vanilla bean down the center, dropped them into the jar, covered with vodka, sealed, shook the jar, and that's it. I later decided to split the vanilla bean lengthwise and cut it in half crosswise so the beans would be entirely covered. The jars will need to sit in a cool, dark place for the next two-ish months. I'm going to give extract away as Christmas presents (SURPRISE! You know what you're getting for Christmas!), so the jars will sit until December. I will periodically shake the jars over the next few months. Actually, I'll probably shake the jars repeatedly the next few days, grow bored of shaking the jars, not shake them for a few weeks, then remember that I'm supposed to shake them, then shake the jars for three days in a row, and then forget about them until Christmas. Because that's just how I do. It's how I roll.

Vanilla Sugar

I had two vanilla beans left over, so I decided to go completely hog wild because I'm crazy like that and make some vanilla sugar too. I split and scraped two vanilla beans, dropped the seeds (also known as the caviar), cut the beans in half, and dropped it all into three cups of sugar. I gave the jar a good shake (I REALLY need to work on my triceps) and that will need to sit for a month, with the occasional shaking of the jar, before it's ready.

So all much does it cost to make?

It would be a lot less expensive if you were making it for yourself, but I'm making it to give away, so don't fall out over the dollar figure. Here's what I spent:

  • $21 for the vanilla beans
  • $24 for the bottle of vodka,
  • $4 for four mason jars
  • $16 for eight 4oz amber bottles to package the extract for gifts (shipping was DOUBLE the cost of the bottles!)

I made 7 cups of extract, which means I will get fourteen 4oz bottles (although I'm not giving it all away). Each bottle of extract comes out to a little less than $5 per 4oz bottle. Not bad if I may say so myself. I typically spend $18-$22 on one 4oz bottle of Nielsen Massey Tahitian Vanilla because it's that good.

Now comes the toughest part...waiting. I keep walking by the cabinet, staring at the jars, and then walking away. But it will be ready in time for Christmas cookie baking time. Imagine how FABULOUS my cookies will taste. Oh, I'm soooooo excited.

Wheeeeeeeeeee!!! I feel so pioneer. Minus the wool skirt. And bonnet. And zero electricity thing. RAWR.



  1. Miss Erin, you need to discover the world of Penzey's spices. They are dreamy. You can order online or go to the store in Rockville, where I bet you could have also gotten some top quality vanilla beans.

    Love that you're making extract.

  2. Penzey's Spices? Que?? Never heard of them... "trots off to hit up Google!"

  3. Michael's for bottles with the old fashioned rubber stoppers...I use those 2 split pods and funnel in either the vodka or bourbon. Saves time and money.

  4. Wow Erin that is amazing! I'm working on making my own hot sauce. When I lived in Trinidad we did it all the time. My pepper tree is filled with lots of hot pepper. I think I may try the vanilla extract for my Christmas baking too! Thanks

  5. 86843cc.... - thanks for the tip! I'll see if I can find them!

    Stacy - you go girl! Making your own hot sauce!

  6. Love your blog! Ordered vanilla beans from beanilla last night...should arrive by the beginning of next week, then I will buy vodka. I already have jars (I can alot of stuff myself). But I do like your idea of getting smaller jars for gift giving. I will have to do that too. Keep doing what you do!!! P.S. Love listening to you on ShineFM too.

  7. Oh my gosh! You did? AWESOME! Can't wait to hear how it works for you too. And thanks so much for listening to me on 95.1 SHINE-FM!!

  8. Erin, what a great post! Please keep us updated on how the extract turns out.

    Thank you so much for your order with us. We greatly appreciate the business and are excited to share our incredible vanilla products with you. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make your experience with vanilla even better.

    Best regards,

    Beanilla Trading Company

  9. Well I know this was written almost 2 years ago but I just read through it on the edge of my seat (very well written!) and find myself really wanting for the sequel... What a cliffhanger. How did it turn out???



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